Special Report

Special Report

An ISIS Side to America’s History?

By 2.24.15

President Obama’s prayer breakfast speech urging Christians and Americans to avoid a “high horse” before condemning Islamists in light of the Crusades and Jim Crow has provoked wider reflection on comparative national and cultural sins.

Recently, prominent interfaith dialogue advocate Miroslav Volf of Yale Divinity School, in a conversation about ISIS, suggested that early founders of America like the Puritans were not altogether different from radical Islamists.

“I love America, but its first founders, like Muslim extremists, advocated killing for blasphemy, adultery, idolatry,” Volf explained in a tweet. When challenged, he asked how long Roman Catholicism took to embrace religious liberty and suggested that radical Islam, with time and globalization, would transition to tolerance.

Special Report

‘It Was a Real Killing Field’—Remembering Iwo Jima

By 2.20.15

On February 19, 1945, 20-year-old Bill Young of Mooresville, North Carolina, disembarked an LST while landing upon a miserable hunk of black rock somewhere in Asia called Iwo Jima. He was part of a 75-mile-long convoy of ships preparing to dislodge the Japanese from this volcanic remnant of an island. The territory was formally part of Japan, meaning it was considered literal sacred ground to the Japanese soldiers burrowed inside the ugly terrain.

Just how many Japanese soldiers were there, and where, was a mystery to Bill and the approaching Marines. It had taken his crew six weeks to arrive at their destination, having left the base at Camp Tarawa in Hawaii, where Bill had lived in a tent camp the previous two years. It had been a long six weeks, with only two stops for maintenance and resupplies, one of them in Saipan. Bill and other shipmates slept in cots under a tarp erected on the deck of the ship; all the beds below were taken up by as many men as the U.S. military could jam on one boat. But that little bit of discomfort was nothing compared to what was unexpectedly awaiting them in Iwo Jima.

Special Report

A Private School on a Public Scale

By 2.17.15

RALEIGH, N.C. — Are private schools the sole domain of blue bloods, or should they — can they — be available to all Americans? That’s a major challenge faced by the school-choice community nationwide, not only from a practical standpoint, but from a messaging perspective as well.

A small test is being conducted in North Carolina that could prove to be a model for national success. Located in Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill metro region, Thales Academy is a K-12 college preparatory private school that is tearing down the private-school cost barrier. What’s more, the schools are showing that quality instruction and a high price tag need not go hand-in-hand.

Although Wake County boasts some of the best public schools in the nation (a point that local residents will debate endlessly), Thales Academy has local public-school zealots in a tizzy. The combination of quality instruction and comparatively inexpensive tuition are the main driving factors in its growth. Parents here in Wake County are on waiting lists for magnet and charter schools. Demand far exceeds supply.

Special Report

VA Reform DOA

By 2.16.15

President Obama and the Veterans Administration bureaucracy are already sabotaging the VA reform law passed in August. The ink is barely dry on the 8.6 million “Choice Cards” that supposedly allow vets to see a doctor outside the delay-plagued system. But Obama’s budget tries to snatch the $10 billion allocated for choice and allow it to be spent however VA top administrators want. It’s a sickening betrayal.

Even worse, VA Secretary Robert McDonald is telling federal lawmakers that this underhanded move will better serve “VA system priorities.” That’s the problem. He’s more interested in protecting “the system” than vets. It’s all about bureaucratic turf and union jobs.

With a straight face, McDonald says it has “nothing to do with us trying to gut the Choice Card or anything like that, it was about flexibility.” Flexibility for VA bureaucrats, not for ailing vets who need it. Removing the funding definitely will gut the program because the law says the Choice program expires whenever funding runs out.

Special Report

Federal Reserve in Deep Panic over ‘Audit the Fed’

By 2.13.15

The governors of the Federal Reserve are in a panic deeper than the ones they supposedly are protecting us from. This week, a few of the financial wizards at the Fed came out to tell the American public why they are against an audit of the Federal Reserve’s monetary policy decisions—and why you should be too.

Dallas Fed Chief Richard Fisher said on Monday that the Fed is already "audited out the wazoo.” He wasn’t, of course, referring to the kind of audits that proponents of the “Audit the Fed” bills (S. 264/H.R. 24) actually want—audits of the board’s monetary policy decisions. Rather, he was likely referring to the annual audits of the bank’s financial statements, which are conducted by the General Accountability Office. Philadelphia Fed Chief Charles Plosser went out of his way to slam the bill on Monday, too.

Special Report

Prudence, Power, and Aggression

By 2.11.15

Is there a moral obligation to help Ukraine defend itself from Russian aggression? Nation-states do not have moral obligations. But states have interests, of which the obligation to function as instruments of their peoples’ moral interests is not the slightest. We should help Ukraine. The question is how.

The German Chancellor’s reluctance to provide the Ukrainians with weapons is understandable. If the effort is doomed to failure, as she implies, why bother? It would represent a costly gesture, not a policy. Rationally, economic squeeze plus resilient diplomacy, even in the face of repeated Russian insults, lies, and open contempt, may be the more sensible course.

What about Nigeria? Do we have a moral obligation to help Nigeria? The argument from morality should not change from one country to another, should it?

The harsh truth of the matter is that this is not the right question. The right question is this: do the neighbors of the country in trouble give the impression they want to do something about the crisis in their region?

Special Report

The Impossible Job of Child Protective Services

By 2.6.15

Some years ago in Southern California, a 400-pound lesbian decided that life with her 300-pound partner and their three adopted children wasn’t worth living, so she drove into a semi truck, crushing her legs and hips and leaving her in the hospital for months. When she got out, she weighed just 90 pounds, but she was meaner than ever, a tweaker hooked on pain pills who took out her misery on the kids. One day, the youngest had to be airlifted out of the home with a knife in her chest.

“Her story on that changed many times,” an old acquaintance of mine, a lawyer who deals with these kinds of things, wrote me in an email. “The children say tweaker stabbed her. Tweaker says she fell running up the stairs. No CPS problem.” That’s CPS, as in Child Protective Services.

Since the late ’70s, the debate over child protective services has been driven by horror stories that have become a meta-narrative: social workers screw up by missing the telltale signs of abuse, kids get hurt, laws are reformed, and thus more at-risk children are taken out of their homes and given to loving adoptive families.

Special Report

The Great Obama Retreat

By 2.5.15

Just before he was elected president in 2008, Barack Obama declared, “We are just five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America.” He may not succeed in his aim to transform the domestic landscape. Instead his legacy may be a different transformation entirely: a tectonic shift in America’s position in the world, diminishing America’s status abroad to its weakest international profile in more than a century. As the Great Recession became shorthand for the deep, prolonged recession that was triggered by the global financial crisis, so the president’s serial retreats abroad may come collectively to be known as the Great Retreat.

The momentous consequences of the president’s policy of retreat are already manifested as 180-degree reversals in three theaters of conflict: the Mideast, Europe, and the Pacific. That these are well underway is evident. That they can be reversed by a successor administration wishing to reversal the reversals is far from evident. To the contrary, it is highly unlikely.

Special Report

Main Street Challenges Dodd-Frank’s Chipping Away at the Constitution

By 2.2.15

“Wall Street Chips Away at Dodd-Frank,” blared a recent front-page headline in the New York Times about bipartisan measures that have passed the U.S. House of Representatives and/or been signed into law that ever-so-slightly lighten the burden of the so-called financial reform rammed through Congress in 2010. “GOP Pushes More Perks For Wall Street...” reads the home page of the Huffington Post under the picture of establishment pillar Jamie Dimon, CEO of JP Morgan Chase.

Yet, what these articles don’t say is that the firms putting their resources on the line to challenge Dodd-Frank in court are the furthest thing from Wall Street high rollers. They are decades-old firms selling stable, time-tested financial products to everyday consumers.

Special Report

Super Bowls and the Super Rich: A Tale of Two Cities

By 1.30.15

On this Super Bowl weekend, let us pause to consider a stunning example of how games and stadiums were financed in the distant past.

In ancient Athens, the richest citizens often paid for gymnasiums and the staging of athletic events. They also paid for roads, bridges, and theaters, and, in times of peril, they built and donated warships to the city.

These were voluntary contributions — a gift, not a tax or confiscation. They served to maximize freedom, reduce the need for government, and reinforce a powerful sense of Athenian exceptionalism.

In his famous funeral oration in 431 B.C., Pericles departed from the usual practice of praising those who had fallen in battle and lamenting their deaths. Just as Abraham Lincoln would later do in the Gettysburg Address, he turned a mass funeral for war dead into a celebration of the most precious of human values: a paean to liberty.